What's all the fuss about primary care centres?
Q. Why all the fuss about primary care centres -- are they any use?
A. It's a 'one-stop shop' for patients with GPs, public health nurses, therapists and mental health staff working from one building. They provide convenience and easy access to services. Around 36 are up and running.
Q. Why was former Primary Care Minister Roisin Shorthall so upset?
A. She oversaw a list of 20 priority locations for the centres in June, with criteria strongly favouring deprived areas. The Government intends to build 20 under a Public Private Partnership (PPP) scheme. When published in July the list was extended to 35.
Q. So who extended it?
A. Health Minister James Reilly and officials did. Previously, some areas earmarked for centres never got off the ground, so his logic was that the list of 20 was too confined. GP or private investor interest is key. A centre cannot be built without GPs. Two of the new locations, Balbriggan and Swords, were in Dr Reilly's constituency.
Q.Sounds like stroke politics?
A. He said they were already prioritised by the Health Service Executive (HSE) which looked for interest from GPs and developers in well over 200 locations in 2008 and 2009.
Q. Well it was a handy bounce of the ball. How fair was he?
A. In July the Balbriggan plans were advanced. But development proposals for Swords suffered a setback and were back at square one. Plans for centres in several other areas were more progressed than Swords. In truth, most areas could put a strong case for a centre.